Tags: :is



Thursday, September 8th, 2022

Modern alternatives to BEM - daverupert.com

Dave rounds up some of the acronymtastic ways of scoping your CSS now that we’ve got a whole new toolkit at our disposal.

If your goal is to reduce specificity, new native CSS tools make reducing specificity a lot easier. You can author your CSS with near-zero specificity and even control the order in which your rules cascade.

Monday, July 28th, 2008


It’s been a busy week for Clearleft. I wasn’t in the office for the start of the week though; I was in up north delivering some Ajax training to the good people at the Library of the University of Liverpool. Alas, due to construction work, I didn’t have the chance to peruse the world-famous science fiction collection. I’ll just have to return to Merseyside sometime when the builders are gone.

I made it back to Brighton in time to press the proverbial button and launch the website of Silverback, the project that’s been keeping a portion of Clearleft very busy for a while now.

It’s been fascinating to watch Silverback take shape from the spark of an idea from Andy to the conflagration that is desktop software development. It’s been a learning experience for everyone involved. If you want to delve into all the details, be sure to read Garrett’s in-depth look at Silverback.

I didn’t have that much to do with the development. In fact, all I did was mark up and style the website (oh, and integrate the PayPal stuff …joy). Still, I’ve found myself caught up in the excitement of an honest-to-goodness product launch. We’ve all been tracking the feedback on Twitter and on blogs. On the whole, it seems like people really, really like it. But what’s far more important than whether people do or don’t buy this piece of software is the fact that people are talking about usability testing.

Silverback is all about usability testing — Rich has summed up exactly what Silverback does nicely. It’s a Mac app that we built to scratch our own itch. We wanted a way to be able to run usability tests quickly and cheaply.

Usability testing is one of those things that always seems to be amongst the first to get cut from projects, usually because of cost or time concerns. Maybe Silverback can help tip the balance back in favour of doing at least some usability testing even if it’s really quick’n’dirty.

I’m constantly amazed by just how far a little user-testing goes. The analysis of the results needn’t be time-consuming either. Having a handful of people try out your wireframes can lead to forehead-slapping revelations of obvious issues.

So I’m really happy that, if nothing else, Silverback will encourage more people to think about doing some quick usability tests. I guarantee that after just one round, the benefits will be so self-evident that usability testing will become indispensable.

There’s one other forthcoming release that I’m hoping will spur on the growth of usability testing. It’s not another piece of software. A little birdie tells me that Steve Krug—author of the classic Don’t Make Me Think—is writing a new book on… yup, quick and easy usability testing.

The rewards of usability testing are within reach for the price of one book and one piece of ~$50 dollar software.

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008


The day before the mass exodus to Copenhagen was an exciting one at the Clearleft HQ. Tickets went on sale for dConstruct 2008.

Sales were going at their usual quick pace until five eighths of Clearleft were safely ensconced in Denmark. At that point, Murphy’s Law struck with a vengeance. The server at Joyent, where both Clearleft and dConstruct are hosted, decided to experience—to use the modern parlance—epic fail.

This was no minor outage. Our sites were down for days while we frantically moved our cyberworldly goods to a different host and waited for DNS changes to propagate. Joyent did finally managed to get our sites back up but we were faced with the unwanted time travel experience of losing five weeks of changes: that’s how infrequent their backups had been. Fortunately we had a somewhat more vigorous backup routine in our office so we were able to get things back to their pre-fail state.

So if you were trying to get hold of a dConstruct ticket but found your quest frustrated, I apologise. If you weren’t trying to get hold of a dConstruct ticket …are you crazy!? Don’t you realise that for a measly £125 (including VAT) you can attend the kickassingest conference there is?

Just look at that line-up: local games geek Aleks Krotoski; newly-published author Joshua Porter, designer-extraordinaire Daniel Burka, the microformats man himself, Tantek Çelik. Last year we had one brilliant Matt, this year we have two: the Dopplr duo of Jones and Biddulph. But most exciting of all, the event will be keynoted by Steven Johnson, author of Emergence, Everything Bad Is Good For You and most recently, The Ghost Map.

So what are you waiting for? Register now!

Oh. Wait. I think I’ve just figured out why you might not have yet grabbed a ticket. Perhaps you’ve noticed the little glitch in the line-up.

‘Tis true, I’m afraid. If you fork over one hundred and twenty five of your hard-earned squid, you’ll have to suffer through one of my rambling pretentious flights of fancy (unless you duck out early).

I have no idea what my name is doing on such an illustrious roll call but I’m going to do my utmost to live up to the honour. That means that, as September 5th approaches, I will be shitting bricks with ever-greater frequency. Why not come along to dConstuct 2008 at the Brighton Dome and watch me make me a complete idiot of myself?

Saturday, June 7th, 2008


Andy and his cohorts have been busy recovering an important televisual document of computer history: The Machine That Changed the World (originally titled The Dream Machine). The series comprises of five parts:

  1. Great Brains
  2. Inventing the Future
  3. The Paperback Computer
  4. The Thinking Machine
  5. The World at Your Fingertips

The first episode is particularly fascinating, tracing the history of the idea of a universal machine, starting with and his Analytical Engine. The documentary includes footage of Doron Swade, author of the excellent book The Cogwheel Brain (released in the States as The Difference Engine). The story then moves on to the turbulent time period of the 1930s and ’40s that saw the creation of the world’s first programmable computers — a period so evocatively described in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

The documentary shies away from declaring any one computer as “First!”, though plenty of time is devoted to . The is covered but the secrecy surrounding the project ensured that its place in computer history would be denied for decades. Churchill himself once quipped that he would personally shoot anyone who blabbed about the code-breaking at .

Today we understand the historical importance of Bletchley Park and yet the charity responsible for the upkeep of the centre has to go cap in hand to the Heritage Lottery Fund to ask for the money required for its upkeep. If you are a British citizen (or resident) and you consider the preservation of the site of the Colossus to be an important task, consider signing the petition to save Bletchley Park.

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008


Jason Kottke points to a a beautiful collection of literary maps by Stefanie Posavec. Meanwhile over on A List Apart there’s a new article by Wilson Miner called Accessible Data Visualization with Web Standards. He shows some of the nifty CSS tricks he used on EveryBlock. The end results are very impressive though I don’t necessarily agree with the assertion that when what we’re really building is navigation, tables are an awkward and often clumsy tool for the job — I still think that tables would have been not just semantically correct but also malleable enough with CSS. But I’m nitpicking. It’s a great article.

There was oodles of data visualisation goodness at BarCamp Brighton 2 courtesy of Robin Harrison. Check out the links from his presentation. As well as the Tufte favourite of Napoleon’s Russian invasion map, he mentioned Florence Nightingale’s map of mortality causes which reminded me of the cholera map of London. That is the subject of the newest book from Steven Johnson called The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.

There are some fine examples of data visualisation over at the New York Times:

Some more data visualisation:

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Pretty in Punk [0811857441] - $19.95 : Chronicle Books

My mission while I'm in San Franciso is to get a hold of a copy of this book for Jessica. 25 Punk, Rock, and Goth Knitting Projects.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Hybrid Design and the Beauty of Standards

My speaking commitments at the Web 2.0 Expo have been fulfilled.

The panel I gatecrashed on Monday morning—The New Hybrid Designer—was a lot of fun. Richard deftly moderated the discussion and Chris, Kelly and I were only too eager to share our thoughts. Unfortunately Emily wasn’t able to make it. It may have been slightly confusing for people showing up to the panel which had Emily’s name listed but not mine; I can imagine that some of the audience were looking at me and thinking, “wow, Emily has really let herself go.”

I mentioned a few resources for developers looking to expand their design vocabulary to take in typography and grids:

Tuesday was the big day for me. I gave a solo presentation called The Beauty in Standards and Accessibility. My original intention was to give a crash course in web standards and accessibility but I realised that the real challenge would be to discuss the beauty part.

I reached back through history to find references and quotations to bolster my ramblings:

One of the tangents on which I veered off was Joseph Whitworth’s work with Charles Babbage. If you’re interested in following this up I highly recommend reading a book by Doron Swade called The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer—originally released under the title The Cogwheel Brain in the UK

I really enjoyed giving this presentation and from the reaction of the people in the room, a lot of people enjoyed listening to it too. I was just happy that they indulged me in my esoteric wanderings.

On the morning of the presentation I schlepped a box full of copies of Bulletproof Ajax from my hotel to the conference centre so that I could give them away as prizes during Q and A. My talk was in the afternoon so I left the box in the speakers’ lounge for safe keeping. Once my talk was done and I had time for some questions, I said “I have some book… oh.” They were still in the speakers’ lounge.

Thus began our merry trek through the halls of the conference centre. I continued fielding questions from the enthusiastic crowd of followers eager to get their hands on a copy of my book. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer audience. I was only too happy to reward them with tokens of my appreciation in dead-tree form.

My lovely audience We got books!

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007


Glass telegraph insulator from New York

I always like to have a good book with me when I’m travelling. A few years ago, when I was making a trip to the States, the journey was made tolerable by some excellent reading material. The Victorian Internet is a wonderful true story written by Tom Standage, author of The Mechanical Turk. It tells the history of the telegraph while subtly drawing parallels to today’s revolution in information technology.

When I finished the book, I passed it on to my good friend Dan in Baltimore. He then read through it as we spent a few days together on a mini-roadtrip through Maryland and Virginia to visit American civil war battlefields.

This week I got a small package in the post from Dan. Inside was an item that pre-dates the plastic age: a glass telegraph insulator with the words New York embossed on one side. A note accompanying this gift said:

Jeremy, congrats on the book! I send this artifact from the Victorian Internet which I’d found for you ages ago (but now am obliged to send post haste). Please enjoy and reflect on the technological ripples your efforts will create through the decades.

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Further flung reading

I had the honour of opening up the Highland Fling with a short sharp keynote on the history of progressive enhancement. As always, I enjoyed presenting though I’m not sure if the silence emanating from the audience was due to rapt attention or boredom. Once the audio is available, you can decide for yourself.

I’ll get the audio transcribed as usual. In the meantime, there isn’t much point offering up the slides as they don’t contain much information. Instead I’ll list out some of the things that I mentioned in the talk.

Music and books